Sustainability + Mobility as a Service

On Thursday, Feb 26 over 40 Palo Altans gathered to hear Gil Friend (Chief Technology Officer/Palo Alto) and 2 guests from Finland (Krista Huhtala-Jenks and Sonja Heikkila) talk about sustainability with a focus on transportation issues.  

Gil outlined Palo Alto’s Sustainability/Carbon Action Plan (S/CAP), and how far the city has come to reduce our GHG emissions. So far there have been 154 sustainability initiatives which include green building ordinances, EV readiness programs, a carbon neutral electricity, various local solar plans, bicycle boulevards etc  -- with a lot more in the pipeline. While we’ve been doing a lot, we could be doing a lot more.  As our electricity is now generated from 100% renewable resources we must tackle the 60%+ of our carbon footprint that comes from transportation -- no small task and that’s why he brought Krista and Sonja to talk to us about Mobility as a Service. Their ambitious and creative solution to getting us from one place to another any time, any place quickly, efficiently and at the lowest cost possible.

They described the MaaS initiative as a technology platform that puts our individual needs at the center.  You would input your need to go from point A to point B and interface with the “mobility operator”.   The operator then offers all modes of transportation (car sharing, bike sharing, peer-to-peer car rentals, van pools, taxis, electric scooter leases, fleet and ride sharing, autonomous transport systems, public transit options etc) that would be available to you based on your subscription level. With real time information from traffic management, transit and connectivity to various mode shares, you can choose which option best suits your need at that moment and it’s all been paid for upfront from your subscription so access to cash or electronic funds are not needed at the time of service.  It is a new way of thinking about mobility -- not dependent on car ownership, but on various needs being met in real time. It aggregates all these various options and services into a unified smartphone app.  They are curating an open, interoperable ecosystem (APIs for schedules, payment and location) and are developing software platforms to enable mobility operators to aggregate and deliver services. The folks in Helsinki are planning a pilot in the next few months. 
Discussions are underway with the City of Palo Alto, Joint Venture Silicon Valley and MaaS to bring it to the valley -- a potential regional response to our various transportation issues and just could be the next best thing to come on wheels.
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